Movie review: ‘Rio’ an animated flight of fancy in rainbow plumage
Sporting a carnival of eye-popping colors, slapstick comic characters, dazzling 3D imagery and the requisite double-entendre humor that should speak to kids and their adult chaperones on appropriate levels, “Rio” is one smart bird of a movie that shows its feathers brilliantly.
Produced by Fox’s Blue Sky animation division and ably directed by Carlos Saldanha, the guy who co-directed the first animated “Ice Age” epic (with Chris Wedge) and helmed the two successful sequels, this tropical lark might well do for the Brazilian tourist board what the previous films did for the Pleistocene Epoch.
It features a bright and chipper cast of familiar voice actors – lead by dry-witted Jesse Eisenberg as the flightless, domesticated macaw, Blu, and feisty Anne Hathaway as Jewel, the last macaw in the South American wilds.
The story is clever but largely pro forma for this sort of film: Blu lives a comfy, homebound life far from the tropics as the pet of strong-willed owner Linda (Leslie Mann) in the snowy Minnesota town of Moose Lake. Removed from the Brazilian jungles as a small bird, timid Blu never experienced the wild and never learned to fly.
One day, a Brazilian ornithologist named Tulio (Rodrigo Santoro) shows up in the Great White North to tell Linda that Blu may be the last male of his species. Tulio asks Linda to take Blu to his institute in Rio de Janeiro to mate with his female macaw, Jewel. Linda reluctantly agrees.
In Rio, all manner of chaos ensues as the meek Blu and the intrepid Jewel don’t hit it off; as the reluctant love birds are kidnapped by an inept gang of animal smugglers, and as the soon escaped Blu and Jewel benefit from the aid of a band of street smart city birds that includes the friendly canary Nico (Jamie Foxx), a rapping cardinal named Pedro (will.i.am) and a love-struck toucan named Rafael (George Lopez).
The macaws’ chief antagonist in all this is a nasty, psychotic cockatoo named Nigel (Jermaine Clement), who molts evil and spouts corny villain lines such as, “Like an abandoned school, I have no principal.”
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